Saturday, March 16, 2013

Open the Neo Stargate

Well, it's finally happened. I guess in my heart, I always had the feeling that this day would come. In hindsight... it was quite inevitable really. I tried to fight it, I really did. But in the end, not even I could deny what was really in my heart.

Yes, my viewers, I have become a fan of Momoiro Clover Z.

If you'd asked me a year ago if I was into MomoClo I would have said absolutely not. Yet ever since I reviewed Saraba Itoshiki Kamitachi-yo, I've found myself appreciating this group more and more and even liking their music. I've always had a level of respect for MomoClo but until now, I haven't really gotten that interested in them. I think part of that interest comes from the sheer exposure they've been getting lately; MomoClo is becoming an increasingly popular idol group, so popular there are even talks that they'll be "the next big thing" after AKB48. And you know what? If I had to predict what idol group has the potential to surpass AKB48, I'd pick Momoiro Clover Z. Unlike AKB48, whose releases feel like blander and half-assed rehashes of their better-written and more famous songs, I feel like Momoiro Clover Z is constantly trying to bring something new to the table with each song and style they take on. Does a certain style always work? Not necessarily, but at least they're trying to take on a range of different looks and concepts!

The group is kaleidoscopic when it comes to their images; they've tackled concepts ranging from normal to completely and totally out there. And even though MomoClo is known for being a weird and out-there group, they don't feel like a group that releases the same type of weird and out-there material with every release. From space pirates to women of war, the group is practically bi-polar when it comes to releases and it's really entertaining and exciting to wonder what they're doing next. Like the promo images for their 5th Dimension album? Do you have any idea how effing blown-away I was when those pictures came out? I didn't even know what to think but I was impressed. Momoiro Clover Z is bat-shit crazy and all over the place in the best and most creative way possible. And something else I've noticed about MomoClo is that the five girls in the group legitimately give off an air of loving what they do. From what I've seen of their performances, not only do these girls seem to get along really well with each other, they seem to enjoy being idols a lot. That love for their job reflects beautifully in both music videos and concerts and the strong personality each girl possesses gives the group a lot of character. Momoiro Clover Z isn't defined by the number of members it has but the character of each individual girl in the group.

So the big hype with MomoClo right now is that they're releasing their second album titled 5th Dimension and to promote the album, a PV to one of the album tracks was released. I've read many a glowing reviewing of their first album, Battle and Romance (which I have yet to listen to but probably should), so I'm hoping that their follow-up album is just as fantastic as their first! After the kickass concept pictures were released, my interest was peaked and I immediately decided that I was going to review the 5th Dimension album when it was released. That time has yet to come (but when it does, I am definitely looking forward to it) so when a PV was uploaded for the opening track, Neo Stargate, it was a very pleasant surprise for me! The release of a promotional video gives me a nice first look into one of the new tracks and what style the album is going for. So far I've gotten a very sci-fi vibe from 5th Dimension with the ethereal and alien-like costumes and Neo Stargate itself. But then again, MomoClo is pretty much a wild card when it comes to music so I really have no idea what the album is going to sound like as a musical whole.

The only thing I know is that very likely the songs on the album will have energy. If there is one thing that MomoClo succeeds in with their music, it is most definitely the energy level of each song. Even song I don't like by them still have a lot of energy. Momoiro Clover Z is such a crack-tastic and high-energy group, that I think they're one of the few groups where I think a ballad would not work for them. A common element that I've noticed in their music is regardless of musical style, the vocals are always energetic (even if the group doesn't have the strongest vocals in the idol industry). I can't help but give their many different music producers props for giving MomoClo such vibrant songs and the girls themselves for sounding so into their songs. Anyways, a lot of MomoClo songs tend to have a pretty happy/energetic vibe to them; the only "dark" sounding songs I've heard from them are Saraba, Itoshiki Kamitachi-yo and maybe D'no Junjou but that's bordering on dark. On a scale of light and happy to dark and edgy, where would Neo Stargate fall?

Honestly... I'm not sure. But I am sure that I think this song is grand, sweeping musical spectacle.

You know those songs that just sound epic? If you listen to Mizuki Nana (which probably not many of my readers do...), you get what type of song I'm talking about. An "epic" song is one with spectacularly big and over-the-top instrumentals and has an air of just being... grand. When you listen to it, the pictures that come to mind are of orchestral fantasias and fantastical scenery. It's really hard to explain the sound of an "epic" song to someone who has never listened to one; you just kind of know when listening to a certain song, it's epic. Neo Stargate feels very much like an epic-styled song to me, especially considering the length of the song and the instrumentals. Something I've noticed about Momoiro Clover Z's music is that their songs are getting... longer. Like Otome Sensou was seven minutes long; sure, the group has yet to release a 30-minute song or anything crazy like that but for an idol group, they've released some surprisingly lengthy songs.  Neo Stargate is no exception; the version of the song I listened to was eight minutes. Of course, that could just be a fan version but even then, the song is still about six minutes long.

And the first two minutes of the song don't even have vocals from the girls, just choral chanting in what sounds like Latin to my ears. It's a great build-up to the actual song and those operatic vocals that wouldn't sound out of place in a church give the listener a feeling that something big is about to happen, something that can be either terrifyingly destructive or terrifyingly awe-inducing. The vocals come in continuing that build-up and when you watch the PV with it, you get an even better sense of what the song is building up to. I actually really like MomoClo's vocals in this song; usually their voices are very hit-or-miss with me but here they all sound pretty decent, even Kanako and Ayaka! I also love how there are parts when the song sounds more serious and badass like in the instrumentals and the verses but then the chorus sounds more upbeat and energetic. It's a nice balance of serious and energetic. What I love the most about Neo Stargate though is the use of techno-styled instrumentals and the opera music together; the combination sounds weird but it works really well in this song. Neo Stargate definitely isn't one of the happier MomoClo songs per say but personally, I think it's a pretty kickass song.

Now before even knowing there was going to be a PV for Neo Stargate, I saw a promo for the album that showed bits of the PV. With a science fiction look and feel to the promo, I was intrigued. MomoClo is known for taking on weird and out-there concepts and somehow making them weirder. So how does Neo Stargate's PV hold up? Let's find out!

What an ethereal looking title drop!

Ooooh, technology that probably doesn't really work in real life but is visually appealing! Sweet!

I wonder if Stardust cloned MomoClo so that in the future their bat-shit craziness could make a comeback when the original girls retired!

That middle scientist's hair is so... poofy! I could play with his hair all day!

It would probably help if I knew what they were talking about in this scene... damn my ability to only learn one language at a time!

PULL THE SWITCH IGOR- I mean, Western scientist who speaks really good Japanese!

Those scientists do realize the consequences of unleashing the terrifyingly awesome craziness that is Momoiro Clover Z, right?

Either way, too late to go back now! The face masks are off and the song has begun!

Why is it Kanako always kind of creeps me out?

And Ayaka's kinda creeping me out too with her creepy hand movements...

God, I love the visuals of this set, especially the pods I'm more then certain the girls are about to emerge out of.

And shit gets real in three... two...

Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with this experiment? Am I right?

So now that they're out of the pods what they gonna do now? Wreak the lab? Terrorize the scientists?

I guess they're gonna dance. Okay then!

In fact, where did those scientists even go? What, is it lunch break for them right now?

I guess these costumes changes are where the "evolution" concept comes in.

And holy shit, those costumes are effing awesome.

I don't even know how they can see in those masks or how they're practical but I don't even want to question it!

I mean a;whg;awhg;ihagh THESE OUTFITS.

Off they go to wreak havoc on more than just one set!

Yay! Another sci-fi themed set!

And now for the part where the girls spazz around toward the camera, which is a lot creepier and strange than it sounds!

They escaped!? Maybe we shouldn't have taken that lunch break in the middle of our experiment...

Well considering they're five girls wearing masks that look like they came from an S&M dungeon, they shouldn't be too hard to find!

Wow, this PV sure is electrifying! Heh heh...

I have to admit, when MomoClo isn't trying to be quirky or funny, they're actually kind of badass...

See this number we're holding up? It's the rank our album's gonna hit when we release it, bitches!

So I guess they opened the gate with their aggressive dancing?

A-ha! They were on a space ship! I wish we could have seen a bit more of it...

I guess now the only option left is to explore space... the final frontier!

And then after the events of this PV, the girls of MomoClo became space pirates.

So something I immediately noticed about the Neo Stargate PV was... it's not that weird. In terms of MomoClo PVs, it's not that weird and even in terms of regular idol PVs it's not terribly out there. Apart from the weird costuming of the girls and the hair of Dr. Poof Poof (I know he has a real name but I refuse to call him anything other than Dr. Poof Poof), nothing else really strikes me as "weird" in this PV. The concept is pretty straightforward: the girls of Momoiro Clover Z are created (or maybe reborn) and go forth to open both a physical and metaphorical gate into a brand new dimension. The concept of creating a person or species is nothing new to science fiction; I was actually very much reminded of The Fifth Element when I was watching the PV. The PV is more-or-less straight-up science fiction with a few visual quirks thrown in for visual entertainment. If you're a fan of MomoClo and were expecting a really wacky and strange PV, Neo Stargate might be a little bit of a disappointment. Even the girls themselves don't really try to be that quirky, giving off an air of more... seriousness. They still show emotion but those emotions aren't that happy or cute but more serious and sinister, almost badass. Huh. I can't believe I just called MomoClo badass.

In their Saraba Itoshiki Kamitachi-yo PV, the girls also acted pretty sinister but that also felt kind of melodramatic and they looked like they were having a lot of fun with the characters they played in that PV. With Neo Stargate, I could never really point out a moment in which the girls seemed to be having fun. There also isn't much of a plot either although I think there was a lot of potential for one. The basic plot like I said before, is the girls of MomoClo are created, they emerge from pods, evolve and open a gate. I do like the emphasized metaphor of "opening a gate" as if to say, their evolution is opening a gate to a new level of music or visuals for the group. The PV for Neo Stargate makes me interested in just what the concept for the album is; the idea of opening a gate to something new and unexplored gets me really excited to hear the full album! So I guess since this is supposed to be a video to promote the album... the music video does its job. I'm interested!

Now I know I just criticized a boatload of details and elements of the PV, such as the lack of weirdness, the potential that fell flat for a more complex storyline, the subdued nature of the girls in contrast to their brighter and more vibrant personalities. So I must not be a huge fan of the PV, right? Well actually... no. I love the PV. I know I just pointed out a lot of things I didn't like about Neo Stargate's PV but I really do love it a lot! I think the biggest reason why I enjoy the PV so much is because it's a science fiction PV and a well done science fiction PV. When I watch a sci-fi PV, I've always noticed that the visuals are what grab my attention and the more stuff in a sci-fi video, the better. This is why I'm such a fan of Perfume's Spring of Life and Electro World PVs; both are science fiction-themed and employ the use of a lot of eye-grabbing futuristic visuals to pull the viewer in. I also just adore the science fiction genre as a whole, partially because I was brought up by a mother who is a huge fan of Star Wars. Science fiction has always awed me because it's so different from the present yet feels like a glimpse of what could be the future, no matter how near or distant that future may be. I love the out-there technology and the sleek and intelligent looking devices displayed in sci-fi videos.

The visuals of Neo Stargate are what compensate for the PV's lack of personality and quirkiness along with my own personal bias towards sci-fi themed PVs. What I love the most are Momoiro Clover Z's various outfits they wear throughout the PV; the girls start out wearing spiked masks and neutral outfits, almost looking like space schoolgirls. But then they evolve and they get some of the coolest, weirdest idol outfits I have ever seen and I love them. I love the tutus, the use of color-coded jewel embellishments to distinguish each girl, and those masks. They look so creepy, almost perverted, but I think they look effing awesome. I also love the scene where the girls are first woken up mainly thanks to the visuals like the stasis pods the quirky trio of scientists lead by Dr. Poof Poof. So overall while this isn't the weirdest PV from MomoClo, I don't really have a problem with that because visually it's still a cool PV. The Neo Stargate PV grabbed me so much that it's pretty much cemented my decision to start actively following Momoiro Clover Z.

I will give Neo Stargate's song and PV 4.5 apples! Metaphorically speaking, not only did Momoiro Clover Z open a gate, this song finally opened the gate to my interest in them. Neo Stargate is a kickass opening track for the album and has only increased my interest in the other new tracks on 5th Dimension. I can't wait to review the album and I can't wait to see what other concepts this group pulls with future material! Neo Stargate has an extremely cool PV and concept that I thoroughly enjoyed watching, even if it isn't quite as crazy as some of their other music videos!


  1. Nice article. Thank you!

    The first 2 minutes of NEO STARGATE are O Fortuna from Carl Orff's CARMINA BURANA.


    Dark song:

    1. Thanks! Ah, now I have *names* for those choral songs I constantly hear! Thank you!

  2. It's definitely a pretty cool song and I love the spiked masks, it suits them!

    1. It is a cool song! Definitely one of the darker songs I've heard from MomoClo...